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Single Market Scoreboard

Reporting period:

01/2020 – 12/2020

SOLVIT

SOLVIT is a service provided by the national administrations. There is a SOLVIT centre in each EU Member State and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. They work together via an online database.

SOLVIT helps people and businesses who encounter difficulties in another EU Member State when public authorities do not apply EU legislation correctly.

It is a faster, informal alternative to starting a court case, submitting a formal complaint to the Commission or launching forward a petition.

Find out more about SOLVIT.

SOLVIT and the Single Market – why does it matter?

SOLVIT is an informal problem-solving network that can help EU citizen or businesses when their rights are breached by public authorities in another EU Member State.

SOLVIT centres also act as “agents for change”, helping national authorities comply better with Single Market rules. This in turn further increases SOLVIT’s positive effects; therefore, it can efficiently promote a culture of compliance and better enforcement of EU law in the Single Market together with the Member States.

Key messages

  • SOLVIT resources are being increasingly stretched because more cases come in over the year and more expectations from SOLVIT rise. It is particularly important that SOLVIT centres have sufficient resources and are adequately staffed as since 19 April 2020 the Regulation on the Mutual Recognition of goods applies. From this date, SOLVIT is the first port of call for businesses who want to solve problems encountered in this field. Member States are obliged to sufficiently equip their SOLVIT centres to deal with these problems.
  • The September 2020 Competitiveness Council stressed that SOLVIT can only be impactful for individuals and businesses if Member States and the Commission prioritise the network. This requires political commitment from the Member States at the high political level because SOLVIT deals with all legal areas and not only with the specific areas  of the ministry that the centre is  located. This commitment can materialise in providing adequate resources to the SOLVIT centres and ensuring sufficient authority and cooperation within the national administration.
  • In addition, SOLVIT helps companies and citizens in times of Single Market disruption such as the current COVID-19 crisis. When striving for recovery, more businesses should make use of the services SOLVIT offers.

Overall staffing indicator-Staffing level in SOLVIT centres

 
 
Map Legend

Staffing is a crucial part of the success of SOLVIT. However, this is currently at risk.

Despite their high quality and dedication, in some SOLVIT centres there are not enough staff, too many tasks to carry out and high turnover. This has an impact on the quality of case handling and on interaction with applicants. In 2021, Member States should focus on staffing SOLVIT centres with the right number of permanent and professional staff. 

Staffing assessment
  • red = urgent requiring action
  • yellow = needs improvement
  • green = sufficient

Performance indicators

 

* Countries with under 10 cases.

[1]Home centre sending an initial reply within the 7-day target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[2]Home centre submitting case to lead centre within 30-day target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[3]Home centre accepting a proposed solution within 7-day target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[4]Home centre not accepting a complaint within 30 day target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[5]Lead centre accepting a case within 7-day target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[6]Lead centre handling a case within 10-week target in:≥ 75% of cases55 to 75% of cases< 55% of cases
[7]Lead centre resolution rate:≥ 90%70 to 90%< 70%

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis it was more difficult for SOLVIT centres to stay within the target benchmarks.

Indicator [1]: Home centre – first response time

This indicator measures the time taken to establish initial contact with the applicant. The target deadline is 7 days maximum.

 
Main finding
  • Initial contact with applicants is being made within the target deadline in 83% of the SOLVIT cases. This is an important first step in handling cases.

Indicator [2]: Home centre – preparation time

This indicator measures the time taken to prepare cases for transfer to the lead centre. The target deadline is 30 days maximum. On average, SOLVIT centres took 18 days to prepare a case in 2020 compared to 19 days in 2019 and 15 days in 2018.

 
Main finding

Preparation time is satisfactory in most centres.

Indicator [3]: Home centre – time to accept a solution

This indicator measures the time taken for the home centre to accept a solution from the lead centre. The target deadline is 7 days maximum.

 
Main finding

Overall, the situation is satisfactory but in some cases the time taken to accept a solution was exceptionally long. This was either due to lack of attention given to the case due to unsufficient staffing of the SOLVIT centre (France) or to a lack of cooperation with the responsible authority at the national administration in order to verify the solution (Greece).

Indicator [4]: Home centre – time to not accept a complaint

This indicator measures the time taken for the home centre not to accept a complaint that does not fulfil the SOLVIT criteria. The target deadline is 30 days maximum. 

 
Main finding

Almost all centres take too long to not accept a complaint. This can be due to lack of resources in the SOLVIT centre or insufficient responsiveness from applicants.

Indicator [5]: Lead centre - time to accept a case

This indicator measures the time taken for the lead centre to accept a prepared case from the home centre for handling. The target deadline is 7 days maximum.

 
Main finding

In cases handled by specific SOLVIT centres (France and Germany), the time taken by the lead centre to accept a case and start solving the problem in a concrete manner is too long. This is due to lack of adequate staffing.

Indicator [6]: Lead centre – resolution time

This indicator measures the time a lead centre takes to handle a case. The target deadline is 10 weeks maximum. Cases related to more general difficulties in the single market detected by SOLVIT (see separate chapter) are excluded from the calculation as they are handled in a different manner.

 
Main finding

The time taken to handle cases was longer this year also due to difficulties in cooperation with national authorities due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

Indicator [7]: Resolution rate by country

This indicator measures the percentage of cases solved. The aim is to solve all cases submitted. Cases related to more general difficulties in the single market, which were detected by SOLVIT (see below) are excluded from the calculation (see separate chapter).

 
Main findings
  • In 2020, the resolution rate remained good at 81%.
  • Countries below 81%:

Austria (74%), Spain (79%), Greece (15%), Luxembourg (77%) and Sweden (71%). The low resolution rate in these countries is related to the fact that they have handled a large number of recurrent cases linked to more general difficulties in the Single Market (see relevant section).

Priorities

Governments should:

  • ensure SOLVIT centres are adequately staffed;
  • enable staff to spend sufficient time on SOLVIT work;
  • ensure the continuity and expertise of staff;
  • ensure that national authorities cooperate with SOLVIT;
  • follow-up on more general difficulties in the single market detected through SOLVIT.

SOLVIT centres should:

  • focus on the quality of case handling;
  • ensure a maximum number of cases reach SOLVIT, especially from businesses;
  • liaise with counterparts in the Europe Enterprise Network and other national business stakeholders;
  • take action to diversify the caseload (as home and lead and in legal areas);
  • ensure SOLVIT centres have access to legal expertise on problem areas for business;
  • organise network meetings to help ensure national administrations support and recognise SOLVIT’s role;
  • ensure that issues linked to breaches of EU law detected through SOLVIT are channelled to the responsible services in the country concerned.

The Commission should:

  • promote the use of SOLVIT;
  • make use of the available data and evidence from SOLVIT for policy making and identifying barriers in the single market;
  • ensure SOLVIT is the default tool for handling complaints in the EU Commission and single market dispute resolution
  • assist the SOLVIT centres in building up legal expertise by making use of online options;
  • ensure cooperation with ELA.

Facts and figures

Overall caseload

 
Main finding

In 2020, SOLVIT handled a total of 5649 cases and complaints. Out of these 5649 cases, 46.7% fell within its remit. 61% of all cases handled were submitted online, 7.8% were transferred by Your Europe Advice and 5% were transferred by the Europe Direct Contact Centre. The rest were submitted via other means (e-mail, phone, post, in person).

Distribution of cases: Home centres and lead centres

 
Main findings
  • Top 3 net recipients of cases: France, Greece, Italy
  • Top 3 net submitters of cases: Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland

Cases submitted by country over the last 3 years

 

Cases received by country over the last 3 years

 

Problem areas

 
Main finding
  • Social security-related cases made up 64% of all cases in 2020 similar to previous years (60% in 2019 and 59% in 2018).

Informal legal advice provided

Commission experts are invited to provide their informal legal advice within 14 working days, this deadline was met in 44% of the cases

Legal areas informal legal advice

The legal areas where informal legal advice was provided are similar to those of the SOLVIT caseload

 

Business cases vs. citizens cases

 
Main finding
  • The proportion of citizen to business cases in SOLVIT remains high. In 2020, SOLVIT received 135 business cases.

Business cases – by country

 
Main finding
  • Top 3 contributors to business cases: Denmark, Italy and Belgium.

Cases linked to more general difficulties in the Single Market* – by area of legislation

* These are cases reported by the national SOLVIT centres, which have required additional assessment and contacts with national authorities. In general, they are linked to difficulties as perceived by citizens and businesses in the Single Market.

 
Main finding
  • Cases handled: 72 cases (73 in 2019)

Cases linked to more general difficulties in the Single Market by problem area and Member State

 AustriaBelgiumBulgariaCyprusGermanySpainFranceGreeceCroatiaIrelandItalyLatviaMaltaNetherlandsNorwayPortugalSwedenSloveniaTotal
Free movement of persons and right to reside2 112    1   5 18123
Social security101  1  1  19 2     34
Recognition of Professional Qualifications 1        1       2
Vehicles and driving licences 1      1      1  1
Free movement for goods      1           1
Free movement for services           1  1   2
Free movement of workers 1   1 11     111 6
Free movement of capitals and financial services      1           1
Access to education                   
Total1241131222120125239172

Handling times:

  • cases closed within 10 weeks: 43%
  • Longest handling time: 959 days

Difficulties in the Single Market (as reported in the SOLVIT database)

Problems linked to COVID-19 restrictions:
  • difficulties in claiming cross-border unemployment benefits;
  • social assistance/minimum income not granted for business activity where economic operators reside in another Member State;
  • access to healthcare not granted on basis of European Health Insurance Cards.
Issues for EU citizens trying to get their professional qualifications recognised in another country included:
  • problems getting professional qualifications recognised for clinical psychologists in Belgium and social paedagogical educators in Italy;
  • difficulties for nurses who acquired part of their training in a non-EU country in receiving automatic recognition, and for speech therapists to follow compensatory measures required in France;
  • delays in processing applications for recognition of professional qualifications incompatible with the EU’s Professional Qualifications Directive in Spain.
Cross-border goods and services providers encountered the following obstacles:
  • six week limit on the provision of surfing lessons by persons not established in France;
  • obstacles to social security reimbursement of medicine sold by parallel traders in France;
  • requirement to obtain licence or authorisation for in-house haulage to subsidiaries established in Croatia.
EU citizens encountered the following social security issues when moving cross border:
  • delays in exchanging information under cross-border EU social security rules affecting most EU countries;
  • refusal to issue confirmation that a person has no right to family benefits in Belgium;
  • refusal by a public hospital in Czechia to accept European Health Insurance Cards;
  • delays in handling applications for family benefits in Hungary;
  • unjustified delays to admit EU worker holding a PIN to the national social security system in Sweden;
  • difficulties to admit family member of EU worker to the national social security system in Cyprus;
  • delays in handling applications for EU cross-border pension in Greece (reported since 2019);
  • lack of reply on administrative forms for family benefits via both paper and electronic (EESSI) means in Sweden;
  • refusal by the relevant authority in Germany to investigate and retrieve documents in order to establish rights to family benefits (reported since 2019).
Problems with entry and residence rights:
  • delays in issuing residence cards to non-EU family members of EU citizens in Sweden (reported since 2018), Austria and Cyprus;
  • EU citizens have difficulties registering in the population register and obtaining a personal identification number which is necessary to gain access to certain essential public and private services in Sweden (reported since 2018);
  • unjustified conditions and refusals for short-term visas for non-EU family members of EU citizens in Norway, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands (reported since 2018), in Bulgaria and in Germany;
  • difficulties in obtaining permanent residence status in Slovenia;
  • registered partnerships of a different sex cannot benefit from EU law entry and residence facilitation procedures in Germany (reported since 2019)
Issues of discrimination:
  • severe delays in the exchange of foreign driver licences in France, with no issuance of a temporary driving licence (reported since 2019);
  • agricultural land can only be bought under certain conditions notably EU registration ID and B2-level knowledge of Latvian in Latvia (also reported in 2017);
  • higher charges for fishing permits for foreigners than for national citizens in Norway;
  • condition for cross-border workers to have a bank account in Spain to receive temporary unemployment benefits (ERTE).
  • discrimination in access to employment in Portugal for a qualified doctor educated in Germany and with work experience in another Member State;

Success stories – examples of problems solved in 2020

SOLVIT helped to remove the following barriers to the free movement of people, goods and services in the EU:

  • delays and problems in administrative procedures for cross border workers due to Covid-19 crisis in many countries;
  • movement restrictions due to COVID-19 crisis to cross border workers to rebuild a hospital in Croatia;
  • unjustified delays for VAT refunds of EU companies in Romania;
  • denial of the multilingual public documents forms in line with Regulation 2019/1191 and request instead of translated and certified documents in Germany;
  • refusal of recognition of Estonian food technologist’s qualification in Cyprus;
  • non-issuance of a certificate of conformity of professional qualifications acquired in Portugal by Spanish nurses;
  • unjustified administrative formalities and limited validity for registration certificate required after first three-months of residence to EU citizens in Bulgaria;
  • no equal treatment on family benefits allowances for Croatian worker in Belgium;
  • problems to define the applicable legislation in Lithuania and Poland for Danish posted workers;
  • problems and delays in exchange of information for social security benefits in many countries;
  • difficulties for seasonal workers to obtain unemployment benefits in Portugal.

More Information on SOLVIT

How does SOLVIT work?

People and businesses who encounter a problem exercising their rights can seek help from their home centre (usually in their home country), via an online application procedure.

The home centre prepares the case and sends it to the SOLVIT centre in the country where the problem occurred (the lead centre), which deals with the authority in question.

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